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A Skytrain travels east from Commercial-Broadway station during the afternoon rush in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday July 22, 2014.DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

Mayor Gregor Robertson has repeatedly accused his main rival, Kirk LaPointe, of being mushy about his position on the Broadway subway, claiming Mr. LaPointe first said he did not support it, then later changing his tune. Mr. Robertson insists that only he will be a forceful advocate for a Broadway subway.

The thing about the now decade-old tussle about rapid transit on Broadway is that Vancouver's mayors and mayoral candidates have always blown hot and cold.

Mr. LaPointe's Non-Partisan Association predecessor, Sam Sullivan, became a huge champion of the Broadway SkyTrain line in the middle of his term. He conducted online polls to solicit public opinion and championed the line.

But he did not start that way. In the 2005 mayoral race, Vision Vancouver's Jim Green was the big transit supporter and Mr. Sullivan fretted that the line was too expensive.

Similarly, Mr. Robertson in the early years of his first term was oddly silent on how he felt about the line. The city was still recovering from the Canada Line construction, which Mr. Robertson had criticized when he was a New Democrat MLA. So during the couple of years that TransLink was studying possible options for Broadway, the mayor was nowhere to be found in news stories. Only in the past two years has he become a vocal proponent.

Former city councillor Gordon Price said he suspects mayors undergo a transformation once they come under the spell of the city's engineering department. For years, city engineers have made a persuasive case that Broadway's transit problems can only be solved by a SkyTrain-type line and that it is impossible to put surface light rail on a street that changes widths so dramatically.

Mr. LaPointe is actually starting out differently than Mr. Sullivan or Mr. Robertson. His first statements were not forceful, but they did not indicate any opposition. He said Broadway was much busier than any streetcar line in Canada was usually able to handle.

Mr. Price adds one more point. It hardly matters what mayors do, since everything depends on a regional consensus and the province providing huge dollars for any major project.

Kirk LaPointe made the case in the past week that the median income in Vancouver has been almost the lowest of any city in Canada under Vision. He promises to support economic initiatives that bring in jobs and that will give people a boost when it comes to getting into the housing market.

Mr. LaPointe is using statistics that come from the Canada Revenue Agency via individual tax forms, so they are reliable. And he is right that Vancouver is close to the bottom, beaten out only by Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivières in Quebec and St. Catharines in Ontario.

What he does not point out is that Vancouver differs only marginally from Toronto, Canada's powerhouse financial centre, and Montreal. All showed a median household income of about $71,000 in 2012.

(He's also fudging the fact that the numbers are for census metropolitan areas and therefore include the whole Lower Mainland, not just Vancouver.)

The lower numbers for the country's biggest cities are not surprising. Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are the gateways for immigrants from overseas and rural areas – people looking to make their fortune.

"Inherently, if you're a larger metro area, you will have lower income rates," said researcher Andy Yan of Bing Thom Architects, who has studied the city's income profile.

As to whether one mayor can raise the income level of a whole region by a noticeable amount – that would be hard. Mr. Robertson claims he is improving the economy by creating well-paying tech jobs. Mr. LaPointe said he would improve it by welcoming well-paying resource-sector jobs. But whether 1,000 or even 10,000 high-end jobs would be enough to change a region's median income is doubtful.

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